From Scholarpedia
Jump to: navigation, search

    I would suggest including work by Nisbett, Wilson and Schooler. This work also refers to 'introspection', although in a different sense from that which is historically correct or which is used here. Nonetheless, their sense of the word (which might be more accurately described as 'rationalization') has been historically influential. It is interesting and surprising to many how poor our access is the causes of our actions. It may be useful to disambiguate this lack of access to the causes of our actions, from the introspective access we have to our felt experience which appears to be more reliable. Anthony Jack

    Reviewer D: On the need for a phenomenological pragmatics

    The article mainly examines introspection as a particular method used in psychology, and this is fine. However, when the notion of introspection is more broadly construed, namely as a becoming aware of one's experience, then there are also other important perspectives which should at least be briefly considered (see Depraz, Varela and Vermersch (2003) for an overview).

    Once it is recognized that any scientific investigation of the mind must at least implicitly be related to the experience of those who design and conduct the experiment, as pointed out in the article by Overgaard, this opens up the door for a full-blown phenomenological pragmatics that draws on a variety of disciplines and methods. In other words, in contrast to Dennett's (2003) proposal of heterophenomenology, this realization points to the need for researchers (and their subjects) to practice and cultivate the act of becoming aware, such that these implicit dependencies can be explicitly formulated and, perhaps, even taken advantage of in the experimental process.

    In this regard it is also appropriate to acknowledge the potential contribution from Eastern contemplative traditions, which have been developing such methods for millenia. Interestingly, this was already argued by Varela, Thompson and Rosch (1991), though this aspect of their book has so far been largely neglected.

    Nevertheless, there are also Western traditions which are important to consider, including the possibility of turning introspection into a proper praxis itself (e.g. Vermersch 1999). Another possibility is provided by the development of first-person methods based on the Husserlian phenomenological tradition, which have been noted as especially relevant in the context of cognitive science and consciousness studies (e.g. Thompson 2007; Varela 1997; Gallagher 1997). The general aim of Husserlian phenomenology is to describe and study the structures of consciousness in a principled manner. This tradition advocates the use of a phenomenological reduction, or epoche, as a method to bracket habitual tendencies in order to become better aware of experiences as they are currently lived through (e.g. Depraz 1999). On the topic of how becoming aware relates to a science of consciousness, I recommend the reader to have a look at Varela and Shear (1999), which is a short and nice paper on related topics.

    How the methods of phenomenology relate to psychological introspection is a whole topic in itself, but since it is often the source of much confusion, an attempt at some clarification might be helpful. One crucial distinction worth mentioning here is that due to the kind of theoretical attitude adopted during most introspection (i.e. meta-cognitive thinking about oneself), we get what appears to be the "inner" experience of a self. In contrast, according to phenomenology this qualification of "inner" is non-sensical for most lived experience, since experience lived within the natural attitude is essentially intentional or world-directed (i.e. experience as "being-in-the-world"). We need to be careful with what kind of attitude we approach lived experience.

    Finally, it might also be helpful to point to some work which has already, or could potentially, benefit from a more principled investigation of experience using first-person methodologies. For example, there is an opportunity to inform the ongoing debate in the cognitive sciences about perception and perceptual supplementation devices in which none of the researchers appear to have had the experiences that are under discussion (Froese & Spiers 2007), and there has been important work in developing a neuro-phenomenological approach to study and prevent epileptic seizures in patients by Petitmengin and colleagues (2007).


    Dennett, D.C. (2003), “Who’s on first? Heterophenomenology explained”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(9-10), pp. 19-30

    Depraz, N. (1999), “The Phenomenological Reduction as Praxis”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(2-3), pp. 95-110

    Depraz, N., Varela, F.J. & Vermersch, P. (2003), On Becoming Aware: A pragmatics of experiencing, The Netherlands, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing

    Froese, T. & Spiers, A. (2007), “Toward a Phenomenological Pragmatics of Enactive Perception”, in: Enactive/07: Proc. of the 4th Int. Conf. on Enactive Interfaces, Grenoble, France: Association ACROE, pp. 105-108

    Gallagher, S. (1997), “Mutual enlightenment: Recent phenomenology in cognitive science”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4(3), pp. 195-214

    Petitmengin, C., Navarro, V. & Le Van Quyen, M. (2007), “Anticipating seizure: Pre-reflective experience at the center of neuron-phenomenology”, Consciousness and Cognition, 16(3), pp. 746-764

    Thompson, E. (2007), Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

    Varela, F.J. (1997), “The Naturalization of Phenomenology as the Transcendence of Nature: Searching for generative mutual constraints”, Alter: Revue de Phénoménologie, 5, pp. 355-381

    Varela, F.J. & Shear, J. (1999), ‘First-person Methodologies: What, Why, How?’, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(2-3), pp. 1-14

    Varela, F.J, Thompson, E. & Rosch, E. (1991), The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

    Vermersch, P. (1999), “Introspection as practice”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(2-3), pp. 17-42

    Personal tools

    Focal areas